Abruzzo’s winemaking traditions go back hundreds of years, and producers are now showing just how great the native grapes Montepulciano and Trebbiano can be
A two-hour drive east from Rome, Abruzzo is an unspoiled gem of natural beauty. The land is defined by the Apennine Mountains, particularly the Majella and Gran Sasso massifs, in the west, which pose a grand backdrop to the gently rolling hills that cascade into the Adriatic Sea to the east.
The region is home to three national parks and numerous reserves full of old-wood forests that preserve ecological diversity. It also has a provincial side, where small farms grow tomatoes, olives, heritage grains and figs.
Beyond these appeals, however, are bottled beauties that, for the most part, have yet to be discovered abroad. Abruzzo’s winemaking traditions date back centuries, and quality has improved significantly over the last few decades.
Montepulciano and Trebbiano are the star grapes here, while long-lost varieties are also in the midst of a resurgence. There’s plenty to discover from this majestic region, and there’s no better time to explore.
Montepulciano is by no means a one-trick pony. Beyond the ability to produce a range of stylized reds, it’s also the star grape for the cherry-red rosatos of Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo. Established as a DOC in 2010, this was among the first Italian denominations to champion the style, and it’s long been considered one of the country’s top appellations for rosato.
Bold and structured, yet immensely refreshing, the wines drink more like light-bodied reds. As the rosé craze shows no signs of slowing, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo is coming into the light for American consumers that are beginning to explore the darker side of the category.
“I think that there’s still a strong market for pale pink rosé, but people are definitely experimenting more across all types of wine,” says Joe Campanale, owner and beverage director of Fausto in Brooklyn, New York.
Campanale is also the founder of Annona, which produces a Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo from Loreto Aprutino in the central province of Pescara. The wine benefits from the vineyards’ prime location between the cooling slopes of Gran Sasso and the gentle coastal breeze of the Adriatic.
The color of Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo is the wine’s defining element. With a vibrant cherry-red hue, it may seem like the skins must be in contact with the juice for an extended time. But that’s not the case.
“The anthocyanin [pigment] potential is very high in Montepulciano.” says Valentina Di Camillo, who, with her brother, Luigi, makes the wine for Tenuta I Fauri. “This fact can easily explain the reason why the result of a short maceration is the naturally rich color.”
The grape’s inherent structure makes it a strong contender to produce robust, ageworthy rosatos. The best examples offer plenty of juicy red fruit up front, with a delicate grip of tannins and a tangy, mineral-laden finish. They’re versatile offerings that can be enjoyed beyond the year mark. According to Campanale, his 2015 Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo is currently drinking wonderfully.
Tenuta I Fauri 2017 Baldovino (Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo); $14, 90 points. Broad tones of Bing cherry and wild strawberry carry an undercurrent of lemongrass on the nose. This is rounded and structured on the palate, boasting thick-skinned red-berry flavors that turn taut and grippy toward the white-pepper and cherry-skin finish. This is a rosato for cool-weather enjoyment. Wineberry America LLC. Best Buy.